States & Mask Requirements

by Emily Buchter

          Carl Smith of Governing: The Future of States and Localities reported that states are cracking down on their penalties regarding face mask requirements. Since the beginning, there has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the Corona virus pertaining to the use of face masks or coverings. Back in March officials stressed that people did not need to wear face masks because they were not effective. After only about a month, President Trump released an official statement that people should wear a face mask in public as recommended by the CDC. 

The policies surrounding the Corona virus became mainly decisions of the individual state governments. Many states decided on the use of face masks when in public while also social distancing. Although a high percentage of people are following the state guidelines, there are still many that refuse. Some states are now making the refusal to wear a mask a crime. New Jersey is making anti-maskers punishable by a fine of $500 or 30 days in prison. Pennsylvania is another state requiring masks and anyone who refuses will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor of reckless endangerment that can result in death or serious injury. 

In my opinion, this pandemic is too political when the focus should be on the public welfare. A lot of people are still convinced that COVID-19 is a hoax. I believe the pandemic should be treated with caution because it is better to be safe. State guidelines must be obeyed, even if disagreed with. The new penalties will help enforce the use of masks, but are the charges too harsh? What is your opinion on COVID-19 and all it has entailed?

Smith, Carl. “Lawmakers Get Tough with Mask Requirements: Legislative Watch.” Governing, 2020, www.governing.com/next/Lawmakers-Get-Tough-with-Mask-Requirements-Legislative-Watch.html.

Universities & COVID

by Danielle Campbell

With going back to school, many colleges had to face corona virus face to face. Many schools limited their on campus housing, some shut down their schools completely. Others, allowed everything to return to normal. NYU, New York University was one of the colleges who allowed their students to return to campus normally. They have policies to keep mask on at all times but aren’t enforcing them. As big gathers keep happening and parties keep popping up. Many kids keep contracting COVID-19 causing dorms to be shut down in an effort to control the virus and quarantine the residences in that building. On September 13th a party was held were 4 freshmen from the same dorm attended and came in contact with the corona virus. The building was put on mandatory lockdown to stop the spread of the virus. This wouldn’t be so bad if NYU was prepared for this event. In late August, two NYU students exposed the college by showing the meals they receive during quarantine. Some only received a granola bar while others received moldy apples or meals 3 hours late. The university isn’t following student’s food preferences and ignoring their pleads to do so. For example, the university is giving pork and various meats to people who can’t consume them due to religious beliefs or dietary restrictions.  The following link is examples of how bad these conditions are in these locked down dorms in NYU. Many students are fighting for a tuition refund as it cost 53,000 to attend a year.

Blog link : https://www.fox5ny.com/news/new-york-university-dorm-locked-down-due-to-coronavirus-cases

Food examples: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8651105/NYU-students-quarantining-ahead-classes-complain-lackluster-meals.html

Fed’s Change to Muni Program to Help More PA Counties

by J. Wesley Leckrone

Heather Long of the Washington Post reported that the Federal Reserve is changing the population threshold for its Municipal Liquidity Facility program (MLF). The program is a joint effort between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department that will purchase up to $500 billion in municipal bonds. MLF was designed to ease the liquidity crisis in muni bonds in the early stages of the COVID-19 shutdowns. Institutional investors were selling off muni bonds, which increased borrowing costs for state and local governments at the same time that they needed to borrow due to increased spending on COVID-19 related programs and a rapid decline in revenue (click here for an overview from the Fed).  The program covers debt from states, counties and cities, as well as multi-state entities formed through interstate compacts. Any of these eligible governments can use the MLF program to borrow on behalf of their political subdivisions.

When the program was announced on April 9, only counties with populations of 2 million or more and cities of 1 million were eligible (although states could borrow on behalf of other subdivisions within their boundaries). According to Census data, no counties, and only the city of Philadelphia (1.58 million) would qualify under these standards. On April 27 the Fed lowered the population thresholds to 500,000 for counties and 250,000 for cities. This did not have a profound effect on the eligible cities in Pennsylvania, as only Pittsburgh (301,048) met the new standards. However Pennsylvania counties fared better as the following were added to the list:

Allegheny (1.22 million)

Montgomery (828,604)

Bucks (628,195)

Delaware (564,751)

Lancaster (543,557)

Chester (522,046)

For more on the MLF program see this article from the New York Federal Reserve. Here’s a WaPo article on problems with the population limits.

 

 

 

 

Climate Change: More than a Snowy Spring

By April Kummerer

Climate change has recently made its effects more apparent to Americans with the growing prevalence of unseasonable weather. Characterized by frequent winter storms and varying conditions, global warming is becoming more of a hot topic with Americans, some of whom identify as climate change skeptics in the face of empirical evidence. Its affects in the United States have varied between the aforementioned frequency of storms and unseasonably warm temperatures, as well as the variation of drought and flood conditions that have worsened considerably for states like California, as demonstrated by its 2016-17 state.

As unwelcomed as our climatological changes are, other areas of the globe have incurred more severe and detrimental conditions. Multiple areas of the Horn of Africa have experienced the severely negative effects of climate change. The majority of Kenya, specifically the north, have experienced extreme droughts that have increased in both intensity and frequency. The region is no stranger to droughts that have left residents desperate for the simple relief of rain; however, the droughts recently experienced by the region are more exacerbated than those which commonly occurred. The recorded climate in Northern Kenya has been hotter and drier, and the region has reportedly dried faster in the last hundred years than in the 2,000 prior. In the last twenty years alone, the area has experienced four severe droughts that have left dead livestock and crops and malnourished populations in their wake.

Residents of this region have experienced starvation, severe dehydration, and economic hardship as a result of the effects of climate change reported by local scientists. Mariao Tede, a resident of Northern Kenya, reported an inventory of 200 goats prior to the 2011 drought. After the deaths in her declining livestock due to the succession of the 2011 and 2017 severe droughts, Tede reported that she was left with five goats. This quantity is insufficient for selling, milking, or slaughtering for meat. This epidemic has forced farmers, such as Tede, to pursue other, less sustainable sources of income. Tede told the New York Times that she now gathers wood to produce charcoal, however, this process further hinders their climate, as it strips the land of its trees. This process prevents the little rain received by the region from soaking into the ground.

These issues of climatological change have the “fingerprints of global warming,” as reported by the New York Times, and are human-induced. Scientists advise that farmers in the region reevaluate and possibly change the crops they grow due to the evolving standard of the soil and that infrastructure, such as reservoirs, be developed to accommodate for the unpredictable changes in the climate.

 

Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/12/climate/kenya-drought.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fclimate&action=click&contentCollection=climate&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

New Sec of State Pick a Climate Skeptic

by Danielle Kowalski

Mike Pompeo, previous C.I.A. director is now taking the position as secretary of state.  Previous Rex Tillerson was known to be one of the last presidential advisers whose views on global warming “are in line with the rest of the world”.  Some of Mr.  Pompeo’s statements and beliefs that frighten a portion of society state that the notion of climate change as a top national security threat is absolutely unbelievable.  Pompeo has questioned the scientific consensus of human activity affecting the climate and believes the Paris Agreement is a costly burden to America.  Being one of the top recipients of oil money in the House of Representatives, it is clear that the environment is not going to be at the top of his priority list while taking his new position as secretary of state.  Mr. Tillerson, previous secretary of state urged President Trump not to withdraw from the Paris climate control agreement.  His departure follows the resignation of the president’s top economic advisor and senior adviser to the president on international energy issues who also both argued to keep the United States in the Paris agreement.  With all three departures, the forces on climate change within the administration have depleted greatly.